India

The Supreme Court will hear Bilkis Bano’s appeal of remission of conviction on December 13

During the 2002 Gujarat riots, Bilkis Bano, who was gangraped and seven members of her family were killed, filed a petition challenging the state’s remission of sentence to 11 convicts in the case.

Justices Ajay Rastogi and Bela M Trivedi will likely hear Bano’s plea, who has filed a separate petition seeking a review of the Supreme Court’s May 13, 2022 ruling on a plea by a convict.

Based on its policy of July 9, 1992, the Gujarat government was asked to consider the plea for the premature release of the convicts within two months of receiving the petition for remission.

In her opposition to the grant of remission which had resulted in the release of the convicts on August 15, Bano accused the state government of passing a mechanical order completely disregarding the Supreme Court’s requirement that law be followed.

In her plea, she asserted that the enmasse premature release of the convicts in the much discussed case of Bilkis Bano had shaken the society’s conscience and led to a number of agitations throughout the country.

As a result of past verdicts, the plea stated that enmasse remissions are not permissible. Furthermore, enmasse remissions cannot be granted without examining each convict’s case individually based on the facts and role played by them in the crime.

The present writ petition challenges the decision of the state/central government granting remission to all 11 convicts and releasing them prematurely in one of the most gruesome crimes of extreme inhuman violence and brutality committed by human beings upon another group of human beings, all helpless and innocent people – most of whom were either women or minors – by pursuing them for days together persuaded by hatred towards one particular community.

According to the plea, Bano and her adult daughters were shell-shocked when this sudden development occurred, which provided minute details of the crime.

The government’s decision came as a shock to the citizens, both nationally and internationally. The society displayed anger, disappointment, and distrust, and protested the government’s clemency.

During the nation’s 76th Independence Day celebrations, all the convicts were prematurely released, garlanded and feted in public, and sweets were distributed. That is how the petitioner, the entire nation, and the entire world became aware of the shocking news about the premature release of all convicts (respondents no. 3) of one of the most horrific crimes this country has ever seen, the multiple-rape of a pregnant woman.

There was a widespread virtual public protest on all social media platforms, news channels, and website portals in each city.

In addition, Muslim residents of Rahimabad were reported to have fled the area in fear after the release of these 11 convicts, according to the petition.

It is alleged in a separate review petition that Bano was not recognized as a party to the petition by a convict who had been released under the state’s remission policy, which is no longer in effect.

“In view of the development that the policy dated July 09 1992, stood cancelled via a circular dated May 08, 2003 of the State of Gujarat, it was necessary to determine whether the policy dated 09.07.1992 would still serve as the appropriate policy for the remission applications of convicts to be considered if the State of Gujarat is at all the appropriate Government under section 432 CrPC,” the review plea stated.

A number of petitions have already been filed in the top court against the release of the convicts, including those filed by CPI(M) leader Subhashini Ali, independent journalist Revati Laul, former vice chancellor of Lucknow University Roop Rekha Verma, and TMC MP Mahua Moitra.

In the aftermath of the Godhra train burning incident, Bano was fleeing riots when she was gangraped at the age of 21 and five months pregnant. A three-year-old girl was among the seven family members who were killed in the attack.

A Maharashtra court was assigned to hear the case after the Supreme Court transferred the investigation and trial to the CBI.

On January 21, 2008, the 11 were sentenced to life imprisonment by a special CBI court in Mumbai.

In the subsequent years, the Bombay High Court and the Supreme Court upheld their convictions.

It is important to note that the 11 men convicted in the case walked out of the Godhra sub-jail on August 15 as a result of the Gujarat government’s remission policy. It had been more than 15 years since they were released from prison.

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